Bodywork & Massage Therapy for Menstrual Health

Photography c/o Jess Lucia and Awaken: Massage

Photography c/o Jess Lucia and Awaken: Massage

It's often that tight hips, shoulders, lower back and overall stress are they key culprits that warrant a massage treatment, but for women specifically, bodywork should be a self-care ritual that we emphasize for menstrual and hormonal health. Yes, traditionally, most women shy away from getting any type of massage treatment right before or during their menstrual cycle, but I've become a strong advocate for doing so, as I've witnessed the incredible benefits and improvements myself.

Ryan Greene, Certified Massage + Thai + Reiki Therapist and owner of Awaken, has been a fundamental source of healing for me in terms of my hormonal woes and struggles with endometriosis-like symptoms. He has a true gift, and in a world where esoteric practices and healing techniques are being touted as the next best thing, bodywork is the real deal. And I'm here to vouch. 

For most of us, the pelvic region is the most vulnerable, sensitive and sacred part of our body. It often goes untouched, too untouched at that, so opening that area up for someone to practice deep massage techniques can feel a bit outside of our normal comfort zone. But hear me out. It is so needed, and I cannot express that enough. Our pelvis is our root; the seat of our emotions and all that we suppress and store including years of childhood and emotional trauma. Underneath those layers sit our most sacred reproductive organs and they need work, just like the rest of our body parts. For women with severe PMS, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, sexual dysfunction and general pelvic pain, holistic modalities including bodywork can be extremely effectively in bringing balance back to the body while releasing tension and managing pain. 

The mere feeling of touch can provide both therapeutic benefits and needed intimacy for women that struggle with such menstrual disorders. Targeted treatment on the pelvic region helps to promote blood circulation in the uterus as well as improved lymph flow, both of which are necessary for restoring hormonal balance and creating a healthy environment for menstruation. Lymphatic massage is especially effective for addressing PMS-related bloating and breast tenderness.

Ryan and I recently spoke at length about his specific techniques as well as the physical implications that take place during a woman's menstrual cycle (cramping, bloating, emotional discomfort, etc). Together, we identified just how important it is for more women to understand that massage therapy can be transformative for improved menstrual health. Especially in a world where environmental toxins as well as chemicals in our food and beauty products are disrupting our entire endocrine system, which has resulted in a steady rise of menstrual related dis-ease. As a male therapist, these issues and concerns rarely come up in conversation between him and his clients, but male or female, we need to communicate with our practitioners about these topics. As Ryan explains, "Many women will usually call and cancel their appointment during their period, but what I want to tell them is to please come in, because we can work with myofascial release and wake up the lymph system to allow the body to do what it needs to do more effectively."

For me personally, I book my appointments with him during times throughout my cycle where I've identified that I'll likely feel a little buzzy and out of whack, mostly during ovulation and the week leading up to my period. When I discovered that I had small cysts on my ovaries, which were a bit more inflamed on the left side, my treatments with Ryan shifted to focus the energy there. I credit my work with him, along with acupuncture, to creating noticeable differences in overall pain relief. Physically, mentally, emotionally. 

In true interview style, I asked Ryan to share some personal bits with me, in terms of how he got into massage therapy in the first place as well as what the process of receiving his type of body and energy work looks and feels like. It is a process that is hard to explain through words, so my interview with him (albeit scrappy!) at least provides some really solid intel, as any energy or bodywork can create initial hesitations and reservations.

Press play for the full interview below, followed by highlighted excerpts from our conversation. 

On how Ryan got into bodywork and massage therapy:

I've always loved using my hands and have been an artist and creative my whole life. After college, I felt very called out of working behind church walls and into helping people in the real world, and massage came to mind. I moved to Philadelphia and enrolled in massage school and quickly realized that I was good at it. It felt natural and I saw a career in it. Now, three years into my career as a massage therapist and implanting myself back in Richmond, I'm in a spot where I can craft my own flow. I found that when I touched people, I felt their emotions, almost like they were mine…but I didn't know what to do with that (years ago). Level 2 Reiki taught me how to protect my energy and translate those emotions that I felt from others in order to craft my massage methods based on what that person needed.

On the relationship between emotions and dis-ease in the body:

Muscle pain is deeply connected to emotional stress. Sometimes I'll touch people and see a flash of a moment in their life, usually a traumatic event.  There are even moments when my clients and I speak through those moments together and I can feel their knots release under my hands, almost a cathartic, emotional release. 

A blockage of energy usually feels like a moment of intense heat or that you're going over radio static. Sometimes even, my hands will just get stuck somewhere and I let them stay stuck until they want to move again. It sounds crazy, but it's real. The buzz, the heat, the cold, the visions…that's where I've learned to start working on those spots with reiki and then move forward with the pairing of bodywork and massage.

On whether or not there are any emotional themes in his work:

Around the election, definitely. Fear and anxiety was lodged deep in the hips, mostly. In general, I pick up more so on the traumatic stuff. It's rare that I find that the reiki is "so good" because someone is so happy that day…but rather, the reiki is "so good" because we just moved through some very dark, deeply rooted stuff that immediately helps them feel lighter right after or even the next day (after the detox period). 

If you're local, you can book appointments directly with Ryan here and if you're interested in exploring private sessions with me regarding hormonal and menstrual health, details on my services can be found here